What is the future of sustainable travel and business? We discuss what the latest trends are in each sector and what practices businesses and consumers are demanding not just from themselves, but from everyone around them too.
As we move into a new year, travelling and seeing and experiencing new landscapes, countries, cultures and cities is becoming more and more commonplace worldwide. According to the United Nations, there were over 1.2 billion international travellers in 2015, up from 674 million at the start of the century. The latest figures represent nearly one out of seven people in the world and is expected to grow to 1.8 billion people by 2030.
The ability to roam freely at your own choice has unfortunately contributed to a significant increase in green house gas emissions and pollution that many think is ‘irreversible’ and will damage the long term future of earth.
With the latest technological updates and the ease at which flights can be booked, consumers that are more focused on sustaining the world we live in want not just entertaining holidays but environmentally friendly ones at the same time. As a result, there has been a rise in the amount of eco-friendly tours, which are predicted to make up 5 percent of the global holiday market by 2024. Holidaymakers expect the companies they book with to be as responsible, ethical and sustainable as they possible can be.
In Kerala, India, visitors can learn about the traditional Indian way of life from fishing to cooking and educational treks through the wildlife. The Banasura Resort is one of the biggest eco-friendly “earth” hotels in the world, made entirely from packed mud. In the Amazon rainforest, communities are learning about guiding visitors. The Rio Blanco Project in Ecuador takes tourists through the rain forest and introduces them to the indigenous people and their way of life and shows them first-hand why conservation is so important in this jungle.
The overall aim of the tours are socially responsible travel, personal growth and environmental sustainability. The main focus of these trips is not only to benefit the traveller, but also the people in the communities they visit. Giving a percentage of the overall fee to local farmers, who in turn benefit by being able to feed their families, makes a beneficial circle for all involved, with travellers enjoying their stay and locals gaining too.
This is only one of the many sectors that has been affected by the rise of sustainability and care for nature. Businesses, ranging from retail, finance, food production to transport are and are having to adjust their processes and make them more ethically responsible and sustainable in relation to production, manufacturing and delivery of goods and services.
One of the outdoor giants, Patagonia, is a fine example of a business not focused on just its profits, but renewable practices that benefit others and the world around them. For over 30 years, Patagonia has donated 1% of their annual sales to environmental charities and grassroots organisations. They also show a strong willingness to go beyond their boundaries to find partners who they can work with on developing solutions to major sustainability issues. This can be seen in initiatives like $20 Million and Change, a Patagonia-backed fund set up to assist “like-minded, responsible start-up companies bring about positive benefit to the environment”.
The most high-profile of their initiatives has been their series of adverts called “Don’t Buy our Jackets”. These disruptive adverts coincided with the frenzy that is Black Friday. Their anti-consumerist messages were trying to persuade consumers not to buy more products than were absolutely necessary for their lifestyle – or for the environment. This unique, but very effective strategy helped promote and discuss the global warming issues that clothing manufacturing are causing, leading to more debates of ways to counteract the undeniable wave of consumerism.
As society in general becomes more ethical in its views and practices, businesses in both the travel and consumer sectors have to focus not solely on their profits and finances, but on the running of the business and how they can give back to the environment that they work and live in. Sustainability and the problems arising from it are becoming more common conversations and everyone will be scrutinised in finer detail, especially multinational companies who have the ability and the finance to do something about it.
In terms of travel, consumers are becoming much more aware of the environmental problems caused by their own journeys, and they expect and demand travel companies to pay closer attention to the effects caused by their services. They are also speaking and talking about these issues much more regularly, spreading the word and making choices based not purely on the best place to go, but also on which business is focused on sustainability.